Conspiracy theories are nothing new. Believing that some people are manipulating, in secret, the World affairs, has pretty much always been part of history. What feels new is the way such theories are able to touch more and more people, all over the world, in the blink of an eye. Thanks Internet, thanks globalization!
In a world where humans may be suffering more than ever, conspiracy theories seem to offer an answer to such pain. It brings the “knowledge” of who to blame and even sometimes, who will be the “savior” or “what needs to be done”.
To the people who feel left out & to the anxious ones, conspiracy theories brings a light. It may bring the feeling of belonging to a group of people, the people who have finally understood the hidden truth. They may feel that, by refuting any and all information of the main stream media, the rich, the politicians, etc. they are smarter! It may even give them a sense of achievement. By believing in such theories, people tend to feel better, or at least partly better as they are comforted by such theories, which finally bring sense to events, they can’t otherwise comprehend.
A common ground of conspiracy theorists is that they are the ones who saw behind the curtain of lies, the appearances… they know the truth and they’re going to act so the machiavellian plans of the liars can’t come to fruition. They see themselves as visionaries and that makes them feel better about themselves.
It does not matter that their believes are based on layers of vaguely related facts, lots of conjunctures, baseless claims and a good portion of lies. Because another common trait of conspiracy theorist is their extreme capacity to criticize facts and reality, only to apply an extraordinary amount of credulity, when it comes to their believes’ environment.
The Covid pandemic has created an extremely fertile ground for conspiracy theories to thrive and expand. The distress created by the incomprehension of what was going on, the confusing messages on what to do to protect oneself, the fear, the tiredness… conspiracy theories are just like the virus, mutating and becoming more and more dangerous.
What shall we do when?
We can all exercise constructive criticism, we can all have doubts about certain topics. It is ok to question opinions and even some facts. But indeed we shall do so, without falling for conspiracy theories. For some, it might be easier said than done. So here are a couple things you can try, if you feel yourself slipping into such muddy waters.
If you feel anxious, if you are scared, confused, or just worried about the future, don’t let these feeling lead you down the rabbit hole. Take immediate and swift precautionary measures!
First and foremost, to avoid falling for conspiracy theories, one should protect oneself.
One of the first thing you probably should do is to close your social media accounts, the ones that you know you already spend too much time on. Facebook, Twitter, Parler… At the very least, block the people that share such types of information and remove yourself from groups, where such ideas are circulating. Do not be afraid to cut ties.
I don’t use FB much nowadays but I still go on Instagram because after watching countless videos of cute dogs, huskies saying ‘I love you’ and more and more dogs using buttons to communicate with their humans, that’s pretty much all Instagram is showing me! Which makes me happy!! If I’m feeling down, these dogs are bringing a smile to me. If you don’t want to completely shut down your social media, you can always do the same!
You may also want to consider unsubscribing from certain newsletters, youTube channels, or deleting links to certain media outlets.
There are probably other things you know you should do. Take notes of when you are feeling down and cut out the roots.
Make self-care a priority
Once you’ve cut out all or most of the things that exacerbate your anxiety, you’ll probably have some new found time to make self-care a priority. Whatever this means to you, do it. If it’s just 10 minutes of meditation, that’s fine. If it’s going for a walk, taking a bath, reading a novel or cooking a healthy diner, that’s fine too. Exercising is great too of course!
Conspiracy theories thrive on people’s fear and credulity. They tend, for example, to rewrite history. So I guess one sort of book you could read are history books!
Of course, you could just as well, educate yourself in other areas! With books of course but with online learning as well if you prefer. There has never been so many available resources online, in all sorts of formats. Internet is a blessing for this.
Clearly, before selecting a book or a specific online class, you probably should ensure that the author isn’t cuckoo. That they are not another conspiracy theorist! I’m not going to check, but I’m guessing that even flat earther have written books.
So please make sure, to the best of your abilities, that any money you spend on classes doesn’t full another conspiracy theory.
Learn new skills / start a project
Maybe going back to actual classes, isn’t your think. In that case, try new things! Learn sewing (!Yeah, had to go there!!), photography or how to make macarons! Or start a project like renovating a room in your home. It’s ok to debut your renovation journey with a small piece of furniture too!
The main goal is to get your mind focused on something you like, a new challenge, while keeping you out of troubles! But clearly the satisfaction brought by such endeavor will be just as rewarding.
Please do not forget to have fun! We are living through a period that is highly stressing and that most of us never thought possible. Once again, this has been a fertile ground for conspiracy theory to take hold.
So have fun, find joy & create joyful moments for others, laugh, smile everyday… It may not seem like much, but it surely will help you feel better, even if just a little.
Taking the next step
The first enormous step taken might have been to realize and admit to yourself that you were mislead and maybe even felt for conspiracy theories. The second huge step was, as mention above, to remove yourself from such vicious circles by cutting ties (physically and virtually) and getting busy on becoming a better human being.
Once you are confident you are safe, you may be ready to take the next step: start the fight against misinformation and conspiracy theorists!
I was happily surprised to see that the European Commission has a whole section on misinformation and how to identify conspiracy theories, including things you can do and advises on how to handle difficult discussions…. I’ll let you dive in, if you feel ready.
But you already know that helping others out of this vicious circle isn’t easy and requires patience. To have a conversation, with someone who’s belief are rooted in conspiracies, is simply exhausting and often fruitless. Ignoring them and avoiding them is often much easier.
So don’t sweat it, if you don’t want to. Your time may be better spent on other things and that is ok too. It’s ok if you don’t feel ready, if you need to protect your own sanity, or if you feel like this isn’t your fight.
One or 2 more simple things…
It is possible that I missed it but I don’t think that the EU website mentions this. One simple additional thing you could do is to boycott businesses that benefits from such conspiracy theories. It is obvious that some people are making money by selling those Q t-shirts, flags and other merchandising online. There are probably other things out there, other types of messages and products. Don’t buy any of the obvious merchandise, but also try not to buy other things from these vendors!
The goal is is to starve the messengers, the people profiting from such misinformation and conspiracies.
Ok, that may have been a quite obvious ‘tip’, but probably a useful one to be reminded of.
A slightly more difficult application of this relates to physical stores. Knowing where you shop and who are the people benefiting from your money is hard.
I recently had an experience which lead to a difficult decision. There is this small shop I like to go to when I’m at my dad’s place and since I have been going for a while, the owner and I often chat. The last time I was there, the conversation took a turn I did not expect. I’m now a little sad, but I will not go back there and will not give money to him again.
I recognize that this decision isn’t going to have a huge impact on him. Mostly because, I didn’t tell him why I’m not going to come back. It is also going to make things difficult on my side, because if I keep doing this, I won’t be able to shop anywhere!
Last little thing you can do? Maybe, don’t vote for cuckoos! Just saying!!
Well this is all I can offer for now. I hope it can be mildly helpful, even if it is helping just one person out there.
I’m a firm believer that when we are busy doing our own things, we find peace, we have an escape from the world around us and it keeps us sane. Indeed such escape can be found when we are lost in a great book, or into the creation of an art piece, it can be when we write, sew, create music, or anything else. You probably already have experienced this, how time just flies, how good it feels… I think these feelings are most helpful, to keep us out of troubles.
Obviously, I also recognize this strategy is absolutely flawed. Keeping busy, might not be enough to keep your mind busy. When anxiety hits, it might be really hard to kick it out. Still, I feel it might be worth trying.